Lost in the shuffle of Los Angeles Dodgers fans reasoning with themselves that it's not a big deal the team hasn't spent this offseason (because Shohei Ohtani is apparently a foregone conclusion for 2024) was the fact that 2023 could be an underwhelming campaign ... and also Clayton Kershaw's last with LA.
Kershaw's return for 2023 is just like his return for 2022. It's encouraging, but it offers no definitive answer beyond the season that's right in front of us.
So when it was evident the Dodgers would be cost-cutting by ridding themselves of Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner (among others) while failing to replace them with the requisite high-profile free agents or trade targets, there was legitimate worry about this team taking a step back while the San Diego Padres continued to upgrade and re-tool in every manner possible.
Then again, if you look at the Dodgers roster, it's nearly "set" basd on vacancies being filled. Center field is the only true question (and the bullpen could maybe use another arm). Other than that, the rotation has five starters, the infield could feature a combination of Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux and Miguel Vargas. The outfield will almost certainly have Mookie Betts, James Outman and Trayce Thompson as three key figures, with Taylor popping in and out as needed.
If you ask Kershaw about all of this, he obviously wants the Dodgers to do all the fun blockbuster signings and trades that present themselves within reason ... but he also trusts whatever Friedman and his braintrust are doing.
Clayton Kershaw is confident in the Dodgers' direction this offseason
If Kershaw's not upset, we guess we're not upset? But what do you expect him to say? That it's an abomination the Dodgers are treating his potential final MLB season as an opportunity to re-tool and reset the payroll to avoid a bigger luxury tax hit?
Kershaw's as diplomatic and articulate as they come. Part of him might be a little bummed out, but he's also been the face of the franchise throughout Friedman's reign, which has turned the Dodgers into MLB's undisputed gold standard.
Losing a number of good buddies (and integral figures) over the last few offseasons, with everything coming to a head this December, certainly can't feel good for anybody -- especially someone like Kershaw, even if there's a full understanding of the "business" side of things.
Maybe Kershaw's been clued into "the plan." Maybe he's just going with the flow because he knows his beloved playing days are nearing the end. Either way, he's doing his best to keep the vibes in check after what's been an emotional and uncertain offseason.